Chord 2Qute

betula

Headphoneus Supremus
I am writing this review for my own pleasure, to help others making a good decision and from appreciation to Chord DACs.

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I used a Chord Mojo for nearly two years and recently purchased a 2Qute DAC. Since the next generation of 2Qute is already available for £1195 (Chord Qutest) the price of the 2Qute has significantly dropped. You can find end of stock 2Qute for as low as £699, used ones even for £500 with some luck.

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The disadvantage of a stand alone DAC is that you need to pair it with an amp which means you need to double the costs at least. Many audio enthusiasts on a budget only look for amps or DAC/amp combos and a higher quality DAC is not on the top of their list. The reason for this is partly because DACs under £5-600 sound very similar and make not much of a difference. The 2Qute still sells for £995 at most places, but being able to buy it effectively half the price makes it an exceptional bargain. This fact has partially triggered my review. I would not spend £1000 on a DAC, but I would spend £500 if the difference in sound quality is there. Let me tell you now, it is there.

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I sold my Chord Mojo and bought a Questyle CMA 600i. I wanted a 2in1 combo, DAC/amp which sounds better than Mojo. While in general the 600i does sound better than the Mojo, I did miss certain attributes of the sound which seem to be unique to Chord products.

The 600i as a DAC/amp sounded much more powerful and authoritative than Mojo. The bass and treble extension was better, and felt like suddenly there is meat on the bones. The sound was meatier with a bigger, better body. This was the most obvious in the bass and treble. The mids were pretty much equally beautiful.

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What I missed with the 600i as a DAC/amp combo after owning Mojo was the soundstage depth. The pitch black background. The 3D placement of sounds and instruments. The tightness, speed of sound (attack/decay). The airiness and the separation of the instruments. Using Mojo as a DAC with the CMA600i improved things a little, but I did not want the hassle with a battery powered DAC.

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I am happy to report that the 2Qute pretty much blows the Mojo out of the water. It delivers all the qualities from Mojo that I was missing and multiplies them. With the 2Qute in the picture I have a very clean, very clear, tidy and tight view of what's happening with all the sounds.
Compared to the built-in DAC in the CMA600i the 2Qute is much faster, cleaner sounding. It sounds much more spacious and this space is clear and airy. It is easy to place the instruments. There is height, width and depth.
Imagine, you draw something on a deflated balloon with a black marker. That is how an average DAC sounds like. Now inflate the balloon. This is how Chord DACs sound. The picture is much sharper, more detailed, more spacious with greater separation and air around the instruments. A more three dimensional space.

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I auditioned quite a lot of DACs under £600 (iFi, Fiio, Schiit, even R2R DACs). R2R DACs do sound better than most average DACs, but in my opinion nothing beats the qualities of a Chord DAC. I owned Mojo, now the 2Qute and extensively tested the Hugo2. In my opinion Rob Watts uniquely programmed FPGA chips steal the show on the DAC market in 2018. For the price that older Chord models become available they are a steal. (Hugo TT and DAVE are still out of reach for most of us.)

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In my opinion if you are building a home system for £1000-1500 than you have only one DAC option in case you are after the best sound and this is the Chord 2Qute. Pair it with a decent amp and you will get 80% of the sound quality what is available today. For the remaining 20% you need to spend at least another £1500-2000.

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To my personal experience this is the sweet spot of price/performance ratio at the moment.
Build quality is exceptional, the simplicity of design makes the 2Qute a timeproof product.
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